Akron has bought into first-year head coach Terry Bowden’s system, and long term, that might prove to be a good thing for a program that’s posted back-to-back 1-11 seasons.
But in the short term, it could be catastrophic.
The Zips ran 81 plays in their 56-14 loss to Central Florida on Thursday. Eighty one. It’s a staggering number when you consider that Akron committed four turnovers (including three lost fumbles) and didn’t have a single drive longer than 3 minutes, 32 seconds.
“That shows we are playing at a high tempo,”Akron QB Dalton Williams said afterward.
But at what expense? The Zips’ defense allowed 38.5 points per game last year, more than a full touchdown higher than the previous five-year average. They return just five starters and are worse along the defensive line (lack of depth) and at linebacker (lack of skill).
If the offense is unable to sustain drives and maintain possession, expect the Zips to end up on the wrong end of several blowouts. Akron lost seven games by at least four touchdowns in 2011 despite being an underdog of 17 or less in eight of 12 games.
The Zips are a projected 21.5-point underdog at FIU next Saturday.
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THE BOOK ON BALL STATE the last three years is that its offense continues to get better but its defense gets worse. Since 2009, the Cardinals have improved in yards and points scored each year offensively but has also given up more points and more yards on defense, including a dreadful 34 points and 510 yards per game in 2011.
In Thursday’s 37-26 victory over Eastern Michigan, Ball State racked up 596 yards of total offense, led by Jahwan Edwards’s career-high 200 yards and three touchdowns.
Up next is a road game at Clemson. Look to play “on” the Tigers if they lose to Auburn. New Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables always seems to clobber low-level teams, giving up an average of just 10 points the last five years against opponents from non-BCS leagues.
Also: Venables already saw this Ball State team last year, a 62-6 Oklahoma victory. The Sooners forced four turnovers and limited Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning to 84 passing yards (2.7 yards-per-pass attempt) and three interceptions.
The Cardinals return eight offensive starters from last year’s team.
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CONNOR SHAW HAS some serious guts. That seems to be the prevailing narrative following South Carolina’s narrow 17-13 road victory at Vanderbilt.
But the takeaway, at least from a betting perspective, is that the Gamecocks were able to win a big road game despite losing the turnover battle, despite racking up just 272 yards of total offense (including 67 through the air) and despite playing a decent SEC opponent who called this matchup their “Super Bowl.”
South Carolina’s pass defense was susceptible at times, but it locked down the run, limiting the Commodores to just 1.7 yards per carry on 36 attempts. This game was all about “survive and advance” for the Gamecocks, who now have a realistic chance of starting 5-0 entering the showdown against Georgia on Oct. 6.
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AS FOR VANDERBILT, whose season win total closed at 6.5, it could be panic time. The Commodores invested considerable energy into this game and must now try to rebound on the road at Northwestern, where it could find itself as a small underdog.
If Vanderbilt loses that game, a 1-5 start seems possible if not likely. The Commodores will beat Presbyterian on Sept. 15 but will then be underdogs in three straight games (at Georgia, at Missouri, Florida).
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THE MIKE LEACH ERA BEGAN with a 30-6 debacle. Washington State put together a strong first drive but was intercepted deep in BYU territory. From there, things unraveled—and quickly.
Washington State finished with just 224 yards offensively and never found the end zone. Jeff Tuel, who some thought would closely resemble some of Leach’s past Texas Tech quarterbacks, completed 30-of-45 passes for 229 yards but rarely connected down the field. Most of his completions were simple dump offs or underneath routes, and he averaged just 5.1 yards per attempt.
The Cougars’ five second-half possessions consisted of four punts and an interception. They rushed 16 times for minus-5 yards and struggled to maintain possession.
- Washington State’s first and last possessions: 24 plays, 90 yards, 10:32.
- The team’s eight possessions in between: 39 plays, 158 yards, 15:35.
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TODD GRAHAM IS OFF to a much better start in Tempe than the one he got off to as head coach at Pittsburgh. The Panthers needed a pair of late touchdowns to pull away from dreadful Buffalo in Graham’s debut last year, and then followed up that performance with a a narrow 35-29 victory over FCS Maine.
This time, Graham’s offense found its rhythm immediately, albeit against a Northern Arizona team that isn’t any good. The Sun Devils racked up 554 yards of total offense and led 42-0 at the half.
Six of Arizona State’s eight touchdowns were scored in less than three minutes, and only one scoring drive was more than seven plays. Yep, high octane is faster than ever, but we’ll see how it holds up the next two weeks against Illinois (home) and Missouri (away).
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MINNESOTA’S DEFENSIVE LINE IS an obvious weakness, but the unit was effective against UNLV in the team’s wild 30-27 triple-overtime victory in Las Vegas.
Though the Gophers only sacked Rebels QB Nick Sherry twice, he was under pressure throughout the night and completed just 16-of-35 attempts for 116 yards and three interceptions. Minnesota’s defense was at its best after halftime and made critical stops late.
Still, one has to wonder how far this team can go with the erratic MarQueis Gray at quarterback. Gray threw a pair of overtime TD’s, but was largely ineffective in regulation and too often missed wide open receivers. On two occasions, he missed them in the end zone.
One encouraging sign for Minnesota’s offense was its run game, which grinded out 209 yards on 46 carries, the team’s third straight 200-yard rushing game dating back to last season.
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UTAH’S OFFENSE GOT off to a slow start under 25-year-old coordinator Brian Johnson, but eventually found its rhythm in a dominant 41-0 victory over Northern Colorado.
Jordan Wynn, who is returning from shoulder surgery, threw an interception on the Utes’ opening possession and didn’t lead the offense into the end zone until there was 11:01 left in the second quarter.
Utah dominated time of possession (38 to 22), but its final two drives occupied more than 17 minutes. The Utes scored on a 21-play, 91-yard drive early in the fourth quarter.
Afterward, Kyle Whittingham told the Deseret News that Johnson was comfortable and confident in his first action as coordinator. “It went very smooth,” Whittingham told the paper.
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UCLA SCORED MORE points in Jim Mora’s debut, 49, than it did in any previous game under former coach Rick Neuheisel.
Johnathan Franklin gashed Rice’s defense for 214 yards and three touchdowns and averaged 14 yards per carry. Brett Hundley, a freshman QB, completed 21-of-28 passes for 202 yards and also scored a touchdown on his first play, a 72-yard run.
But Mora has to be concerned about his defense, which yielded 24 first-half points to an Owls team that isn’t any good. (The three missed PATs—all blocked—was also ridiculous.)
Though the Bruins pitched a shutout in the second half and forced five 3-and-outs, they can’t afford to have a repeat effort if they hope to hang with Nebraska—a projected 4-point favorite who figures to be one of the most dynamic offenses in the Big Ten.
Just a guess: The Huskers roll to an easy victory in L.A.
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IS IT TOO LATE for UMass to return to FCS? The Minutemen picked up three first downs in its 37-0 loss at Connecticut and had just 56 yards of total offense, an average of roughly 1 yard per play.
Yards per rush: 0.1.
UMass went 3-and-out 10 times on 13 possessions and its longest drive was six plays for 19 yards. They failed to gain even a single yard on six drives. Hey, maybe there’s a reason why the Minutemen’s season win total was set at 1.5—with the under juiced heavily.
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NO GAME WAS WORSE THAN the Eastern Washington-Idaho matchup. Kyle Padron, the former SMU quarterback who played in June Jones’s run-and-shoot, completed just 13-of-33 pass attempts for 260 yards, but helped the FCS Eagles to a 20-3 road victory.
Idaho was miserable offensively and had five 3-and-outs. After the Vandals’ second drive (10 plays and 86 yards) led to a field goal, the ensuing eight possessions produced just 74 yards and a turnover. We were concerned about Idaho’s offense coming into the season, and Thursday’s outing confirmed why.
Logan Bushnell doesn’t appear to be the answer at quarterback, and a lack of explosion in the running game (28 carries for 73 yards, with a long of seven) is troubing to say the least.
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WE’LL SEE HOW he fares the next couple weeks when Utah State takes on Utah and Wisconsin in consecutive games, but Chuckie Keeton, the team’s starting QB, turned in a strong outing in the team’s 34-3 victory over Southern Utah.
Keeton suffered a season-ending injury late last year and had to beat out Adam Kennedy for the starting job in the offseason. He shined against the outmanned Thunderbirds, completing 22-of-26 passes for 306 yards and a pair of touchdowns. While Kennedy is more of a pocket passer, Keeton’s ability to throw on the run adds an extra dimension to the Aggies’ offensive attack.